Anti-Islamic Film is Wrong!

Over the last week, U.S. embassies and facilities around the world have become targets for demonstrations and violence.  First in Libya and now in multiple places, outraged crowds of people protest what they understand to be profoundly offensive and blasphemous portrayals of their religion and its founding prophet.  Reportedly, an Egyptian born Coptic Christian man stands behind the film, “Innocence of Muslims,” which depicts Muhammad variously as a womanizer, a homosexual, and a child abuser.  In response, a wave of protest has rolled across the Middle East focusing on U.S. embassies because the man behind the film lives in the U.S.  For much of the Muslim world the film feels like an assault with the endorsement of Christians living in the center of the “Christian World,” the U.S.A.

I believe followers of Jesus should be quick to denounce this film and express grief over the evils that have followed in its wake.  Let me explain why.

First, the portrayals are false.  They are a lie.  Followers of Jesus do not remain silent in the face of lies and slander.  Perhaps some are reticent to protest the lie (or it doesn’t even occur to them to do so) for fear of supporting Islam.  I contend that denouncing a lie is simply the right thing to do and is, in fact, one of the best ways to express true support for the way of Jesus.  We do not honor the One who is the truth by allowing lies to stand.

Second, followers of Jesus practice the golden rule.  If Jesus were slandered, which he often is, we would appreciate others who seek to correct the lies.  I remember several years ago when a major film came out portraying our Lord in false and offensive ways.  The outcry from much of the Christian world was massive.  How we would have appreciated persons of good will from within the film industry expressing sympathy with our sense of offense over the misrepresentation of Jesus!   “As you would have them do to you … “ Jesus teaches.

Third, followers of Jesus are also called to be peace-makers.  That is, they are called not only to avoid fighting when possible, but to bring the resources of grace and love into situations of anger and hostility and show a better way.  Followers of Jesus who, in the name of Jesus, denounce the lie of this video will, in so doing, also demonstrate that the film does not reflect the view of Christian people, that the film comes from an individual whose aims Christians do not support.  This seems a small gesture perhaps, but doing the right thing, even if small, can affect good disproportionately large.

Fourth, followers of Jesus will pray for those who hate them and will not return evil for evil when attacked.  At the very least, not returning evil from those who oppose us (as at various U.S. embassies around the world) will require us to name the lies that poison the world scene in this matter—the lies in the film itself and the lie that this film expresses the view of Christian people or even the secular Western world for that matter.

Fifth, followers of Jesus seek the well-being of all people who are made in God’s image.  We believe the person of Jesus and the way of Jesus to be the hope of the world.  We are committed to showing the way of Jesus as faithfully and attractively as possible, convinced that Jesus will draw people from everywhere to himself.  Yes, Jesus is that compelling and powerful.  And we wouldn’t want to impede what Jesus is doing.  Thus, we treat all people with respect and honor—even or especially those who we’re convinced are wrong.  We do this not only because it’s right, because it comports well with the way of Jesus itself, but also because we are confident that Jesus knows how to draw people to his way.  Our role is to show his way to the world and point people to Jesus.  Critical to our showing and pointing is removing as many barriers as possible.  On any reckoning, the lies of the film are barriers.

The film is just wrong.

I would not be surprised if some who read this will wonder why I haven’t also denounced the violence and killing of the crowds who have protested.  Well, everyone has and is—our President, his political allies and opponents, and most of the world.  This is indeed wrong, self-evidently wrong in my judgment, though there is nothing peculiarly Christian about such denunciations.

The film, however, for more than the reasons cited above is just wrong.

Comments 34

  1. Interesting comments. Not to challenge your article, but I have a question: you say that the portrayals in the video are false. Would you care to supply sources to back up that statement? Otherwise it is simply an unsubstantiated claim.

  2. david.kendall Post
    Author

    Clif, it is interesting to me that you don’t use the same logic with respect to the video. From what sources are these portraits drawn? The portrayals of the video (which by the way I have not seen)sounds very much like the Da Vinci Code portrayls of Jesus and early Christianity.

    I am not an Islamic scholar, but have read enough to know that these portrayals are way out of the range of scholarly or popular portrayals of Mohammad, and are deeply offensive in just the same way fanciful portrayals of Jesus are to us.

    1. Clever way to avoid answering the question, but all to obvious. Please answer the question posed to you. Clif is not making any statements of alleged fact…you are. He needn’t apply the same logic as it would be misplaced.

      Additionally, please state whether you have personally seen the video.

      You claim the portral is false. How so?…and how do you know this? Your statement that you know enough to know is simply insufficient.

  3. Thank you, David, for speaking out boldly on this. I am thankful for those in the Free Methodist Church, like Dr. Matt Zahniser and my own daughter who are looking for ways of promoting dialogue with Muslims of good will. Such patently untruthful productions as this film do much to sully the name of Christ and the church.

  4. What a gracious reminder of our Christian legacy to love one another, especially those who do not love us. Jesus said to be salt and light to a dark world, to be blessed when we are persecuted and to pray for those who persecute us. What happened to the Royal Way of Jesus? Thank you, Bishop Kendall for speaking Truth.

  5. I agree with your premise that untruths should be confronted and corrected.

    In this case you criticize a film you have not seen. It seems to me you have undermined your credibility in this instance.

    I too am not a Muslim scholar but, from my general absorption from reading over the years, I have held the impression that these accusations of moral failings were true. I would rather see some more critically developed analysis. I have had the impression that the accusations regarding Mohammed are true.

    If they are not true, then I agree with your call for condemnation of the film.

  6. david.kendall Post
    Author

    Charles,I have now watched the 13 minute and 51 second video on YouTube. I am quite sure this represents a massive lie on two levels. First, the material facts of the historical Muhammad. There have been thousands of bios on him both from within and without the Muslim faith community. It would be an easy thing to demonstrate if this video is anywhere near the truth. In fact, the video assumes all the basest and grossest instincts of human nature and depravity and ascribes them to Muhammad.

    Second, by denigrating the founder the clear implication is that his followers are like this also, more or less. That they know the truth and don’t care, or are just ignorant. This is a shoddy attempt at a videographic ad hominem argument—trash the founder and thus trash his movement. This is shamefully unworthy of any Christ follower.

    1. You may be entirely correct when you say it is shamefully unworthy of any Christ follower…but that does not make it untrue.

      There are a great deal of resources out there that substantiate Muhammad as a womanizing, pedophile…and as you say, from both within and without the Muslim faith.

      Didn’t Muhammed have a six year old wife? Are you unaware that for Muslim fighters it is the norm to rape the enemy if they are captured? It is likely this is precisely what happened to Ambassador Stevens before he died, and was common during the Soviet occupation of Afgahnistan.

      Your knowledge on the subject appears to be somewhat lacking, and your piece appears to be more of an op-ed. Please forgive me if my words come across as overly critical.

  7. This is a thoughtful and truthful blog and I agree completely. As Christians, we should speak the truth while upholding the Truth and Gospel of Jesus Christ, which, by the way, may get you killed if you do so toward those who hold a ratical and extreme view of their religion mixed in with an equally radical and extreme view of their politics.

    However, to believe that all of this is simply a result of a film that has been on YouTube since June is to be blind to a deeper truth, that there is deep hatred and a strong desire to destroy “the west” for our way of life, our faith (Christian), and our political approach. There is growing evidence that this video is simply being used as a cover for the true reasons for the violence against the US. Notice, as well, that, according to all reports, the initial protests consisted of a very different demographic than those earlier “Arab Spring” protests against dictators.

    This, nonetheless, doesn’t change the points of your blog.

  8. Thoughtful comments in this discussion, to be sure. David, I had in mind comments I have read elsewhere that by using only the Quran as source material it can be proven that “Mohammed was a sinful man, a child molester, a sex offender, a womanizer, a prophet pretender, a thief, a killer, an adulterer; therefore, he cannot be a prophet”

    The video in question may or may not present an historically accurate account of Mohammed’s life and character — I am genuinely curious why you so emphatically assert that the above statements are false.

  9. I am not sure what I think about the appropriateness of you making this comment as a bishop of the FM church. As a private citizen, you have the right to say whatever you want, but as a bishop you are speaking for the donomination and I’m not sure that you are speaking for me in this.

  10. Thank you for your thoughts. I think you reflect common sense and the heart of Christ. It is important for us to be reasonable, rational and compassionate – that is what I found your post to be.

    While Islam can and should be challenged on many fronts, now is not the time to do so lest people think we support such a questionable film in content and tone.

  11. According to Army Major General Bob Scales (ret), the killing and other violent actions have nothing to do with the video, but are about trying to get America out of Afghanistan sooner before the US has time to train the Afghans to defend themselves. My muslim friends that I checked with also agreed that these violent actions have nothing to do with the film.

  12. Bishop Kendall, I appreciate your public denunciation of this film, despite the backlash that it invoked in the comments. Perhaps I am naive, but I was surprised to see so many Free Methodists disagreeing with you to such an extent that it sounded as though they were defending the film itself.

    For those who disagreed with the Bishop’s comments, I would encourage you not to get so fixated on his first point (that the film makes false claims about Muhammad) that you miss his more important third point, Christians are called to be peacemakers. There are so many people in our culture today who just pride themselves on “being honest” or “speaking their minds.” But this kind of honesty is a misconstrual of the biblical virtue of truthfulness. To be honest simply requires one to say something that’s not false. Statements like, “The way you smell disgusts me” are honest, but they are not Christian. Remember, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I would like to ask, How can these slanders against Muhammad (regardless of whether they are true or false) could be considered “helpful for building others up”? Christians ought to be opposed to all forms of gossip and slander, and so a video like this should be rejected by Christian communities REGARDLESS of the truth-value of its content.

    Furthermore, I agree with Bishop Kendall that these claims against Muhammad are false. It is true that Muhammad had multiple wives, which we as Christians don’t believe is right. However, to accuse him of being a “womanizer” for this is no more fair than accusing most of the Old Testament figures (e.g. Jacob) of the same thing. I am no expert on Islam myself, but I have at least read all the way through an English translation of the Qur’an, and I can assure you that there are no texts in there that say Muhammad was sexually deviant. (The Qur’an doesn’t speak much about Muhammad’s biography anyway. Most of our knowledge of him comes through the ahadith, which are second-or-third hand accounts of him.)

    What does the Qur’an say about women? The most extensive discussion can be found in Surah 4. Verse 19 says, “O you who believe! you are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness… on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity.” Or verse 34, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given one more (strength) that he other, and because they support them from their means.” I think that most Muslims would acknowledge that the Qur’an exhibits a hierarchical view of men over women, which Free Methodists (but not all Christians) reject, it treasures women and respects their bodies, which makes it completely unfair to say that their leader rejected them.

    Do I hope and pray that Muslims will convert and find the fullness of salvation in Jesus Christ? Absolutely. But I don’t think that this is likely to occur by Christians supporting slanderous videos. By showing a one-sided outrage at the Muslim response and not at the creators of this video, we not only undermine our witness to Muslims; we fail to be obedient to the Lord who calls us to bless those who curse us.

  13. Bishop Kendall,
    A face-book share got me to your blog. I totally agree the “you-tube clip” should never have been made or shown.
    Your response and reasoning is something I would have said or written less than three years ago. A mosque was proposed 2 miles from the church I pastor. I made comments and had thoughts similar to yours and then was challenged to stand behind my position. The challenge was both sobering and troubling. I respectively share a few thoughts.
    The key to understanding Islam is not the Koran. The Koran states 91 times Muslims are to follow the life of Mohammad. The key to Islam are Mohammad’s words and life compiled as the Sunna. The Sunna contains the Sira (life of Mohammed) and the Hadith (collections of his words and actions). In Islam the Koran represents less than 15 percent of the textual writings. The Sira and Hadiths represent 85 percent of all the writing and are the basis of how life is practiced as a Muslim.
    When it comes to the life of Mohammad he is to be followed as I a Christian follow the teachings of Christ. So whether he was an adulterer or child abuser may be up for debate for some. I submit one of his first atrocities. In Medina with his child wife Aisha along side of him (12 years old) nearly 800 Jewish men and boys were beheaded for refusing to acknowledge that Mohammad was the prophet of Allah.
    I saw several years ago the video clip of the actual beheading of Daniel Pearl. It was abusive to me.
    I appreciate your heart and I agree we should reach out with the love of Jesus to all Muslims. I do not spend my time preaching on Islam and the evils of Islam. The problem can be clearly seen by the reason for your post. If Mohammed is disrespected in anyway the teachings of Islam demand the death of any or all of his blasphemers. It has been happening for nearly 1400 years and sad to say we are seeing it every day of our lives. Thank you for the opportunity to post and share.

    1. @Paul – very sobering testimony. You have written a clear reminder that while the call to follow Christ is crystal clear, the path that we follow to do so is often quite murky and difficult.

  14. The movie is not the reasons our Embassy was attacked. This is a naive U.S. Leftist response and was used to try and cover up the terrorist attack that killed our Embassador and others. The video is free speech. As a Free Methodist, we should be talking about what we stand up for vs. joining the Sharia Blasphemy choir. This video was made by Egyptian Copts to show what they are being subjecated to in thier homeland. They are showing in video Muslims through verses and teaching in the Koran what Islamists base thier religeon on. Have you not read the Koran?

  15. This is not a call to arms, but a call to truth. A reminder of the evil world we live in and our obligation to stand against Satan.

    In my humble opinion, the Free Methodist Church, along with every other Christian group out there, should not be opening dialogue with Muslims or any other heretical group. This may sound good by today’s worldly standards, but why does any Christian want to increase their, “understanding,” of a Satanic doctrine? Every Christian is obligated to ask themselves if they believe Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If Jesus is the ONLY way, they Islam is of the devil…there is no way around it. Muhammed and his followers are enemies of the Christian faith and enemies of the true God of the universe.

    I realize these words will come across in a rather strong fashion, but history is filled with examples of the distater wrought on God’s people when they headed down this kind of road. What is it that cooperation is supposed to promote? What can light have in common with darkness?

    We are to love another without a doubt, but nowhere are we encouraged to foster cooperation or mutual understanding and respect for the enemies of God.

    I will repeat, we should and must love Muslims, but our stance on the evil nature of Islam should never be diminished or watered down.

    1. Thomas, I suppose without “open dialogue” there’d be no way to share the words of Christ, but to persons who are closed minded and convinced that their interpretation of who God is the only correct interpretation, that doesn’t matter much at all. I am thankful you are not a Bishop or at least my pastor. Your world view would see us return to the days of the crusades, where the spilling of muslim blood was more sacred than the lives of muslim.

  16. The film was a joke of a film, and this was not the reasons for the riots. The time frame was wrong, the joke of a film has been out for months. The attacks were on the anniverssary of the 9/11 attacks, and if you know the muslim faith, they do their attacks on such dates. They showed up with rockets launchers and attacked from 3 sides. This doesnt sound like just being angry over a stupid film.

  17. Jesus calls us to love, so love like Jesus. It seems so simple why do we find it so hard. We are called to stand up for the truth I agree with you Bishop Kendall. Thanks for your comments.

  18. 2 Cor. 10:3-7
    3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

  19. Sir,
    I respect your intent in that I assume the point is primarily that we Christians should set a higher standard, regardless of the barbaric reactions from the followers of Mohammed. However, I do struggle with your repeated assertion that this film, (I’m assuming this means the whole film.) was a lie. You almost seem to be saying that Mohammed was actually some virtuous prophet, deserving of our respect.
    Are you aware that he had sex with a nine year old girl? That he advocated beheading? That he owned slaves, married his own daughter in law, approved of prostitution, recommended wife beating, hit his own wife, killed prisoners of war, beat children who did not pray, had eleven wives at one time, told sick people to heal themselves by drinking camel urine, killed a man for simply insulting him, killed a woman, encouraged the rape of women in front of their husbands, had boys as young as thirteen beheaded, and advocated suicide attacks, among other despicable acts?
    You did make reference to some of the insults Christianity has suffered, but failed to mention that there is no documented case of those insults resulting in cold blooded murder of innocent people. We do not owe them an apology. They owe us an apology!
    Please do not take this as an attack on you. I do however worry that, with the best of intentions, Christians too often allow Satan’s side to come out looking like the innocent victim, when in fact they demonstrate none of this same compassion toward us.

  20. Lynn, I can name 100 Christian leaders who did the same things and all with more evidence. You have no proof that Mohammed did those things other than from people who wish to slander him.

  21. Lynn, I have proof that insults resulted in cold blooded murder…. the crusades, the inquisition, various witch trials, the persecution of the mennonites…just to name a few.

  22. You all seem to forget the 1000 years of terror the Christian church perpetrated on humanity. The crusades, the inquisition and various other moments in history where christians killed each other and Muslims and Jews. Just because Islam is a t the center of terror today does not mean all muslims are terrorist or that Islam is inherently violent and evil. I grew up near Dearborn and many of my friends were Muslims and they were holy, upright and Godly people who valued family, marriage and religion even more than most Christians. Our Bishop is simply trying to point out the damage that the tongue can do and why we need to watch what we say and do, because just like the Rev. Wright said, “our chicken are coming home to roost.”

  23. I support Bishop Kendall on this, and the issue has bothered me ever since Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses. There is a difference between reasoned disagreement and gratuitous ridicule, and nasty films like the one Bishop Kendall refers to just deflect attention away from the very real and serious theological problems inherent to Islam.